Double-crossed at the Doubletree, Augustans Got a 22% Property Tax Increase

When your humble flinger of arrows climbed into his pickup truck one afternoon in the late summer of 2010 it was not dreamed that the trip was worth $4 million to $5 million to the people of Augusta Richmond County, Georgia, yet it was.

The Georgia General Assembly had empaneled a Tax Reform Council, chaired by former Atlanta Olympic Games chairman A.D. Frazier, and charged it with recommending a tax reform plan. Earlier, in 2008, the legislature had wisely rejected disgraced House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s G.R.E.A.T. (Georgia Repeal Every Ad valorem Tax) plan but still held the notion of “tax reform” dear, spurred on by the Georgia Traditional Manufacturers Association and others. Manufacturers wanted relief from Georgia’s sales-tax-exemption-limiting “Direct Use” requirements. Agricultural interests wanted sales tax relief, too.

The Tax Reform Council met in cities across Georgia. The meeting in Augusta came within 3 weeks of a furious Republican Party runoff for governor, which diverted attention from what was at risk. The Council convened at the Doubletree Hotel on August 30, 2010. A number of presenters had prepared remarks which were posted on the Tax Council website. This writer had not come to speak but rose and gave an impromptu talk in opposition based upon the enormous revenue loss that appeared to be in the making, including a critique of surviving elements of G.R.E.A.T. A sitting member of the Georgia House of Representatives, Don Parsons, was not paying attention enough to catch the name and dismissed the talk as uninformed.

The frightening thing was that the Tax Council withheld its report, despite promises it would be published in November, until the start of the 2011 session and the stated intent was for the plan to rocket through the General Assembly for a straight “up or down” vote.

The Augusta presentations included one that tipped off how draconian the sales and use tax losses would be for Augusta. An email to a key member of the Augusta Commission warned of the losses. Another to an organization promoting the bad tax deal laid out the reasons that killing it in 2011 were good.

Taxreformwarning_Page_1Tax Reform 2011 Killed_Page_1Lobbyists didn’t care.

The Augusta Chronicle reported “Twice panel members asked how to replace the revenue from new tax breaks such as elimination of the inventory tax. John Krueger, senior vice president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, replied that he hadn’t polled his members about that.

“To be honest, I really don’t have an answer to that,” he said.”

The next year tax reform returned and passed. Not one of the location legislative delegation voted against it, not even “conservatives” Representative Barbara Sims or Senator Bill Jackson. Just as night follows day, the tax losses hit Augusta Richmond County so hard that in 2014, the Augusta Commission had to pass a 22% property tax increase to compensate for them.

The Augusta Commission got the blame but the damage was clearly inflicted by the General Assembly, with the local delegation going right along with it.

The sales taxes given up were were being passed on to purchasers of the manufactured goods outside of Augusta, Richmond County and now are being replaced by your property taxes, if you live in Augusta-Richmond County. The manufacturers were not likely to leave Augusta over taxes they had been paying for years and “tax reform” means that new businesses won’t be paying new taxes, either. Theories and subsidized jobs excited the politicians but this was a DEAD LOSS to the people, if one looks at the only thing that counts with revenue – CASH FLOW!

The entire progression of events might not have turned to the public’s favor, but it was a wonderful chance to demonstrate how The AURELIUS PRINCIPLE works to identify millions of dollars of savings to clients who might just be interested in saving those millions rather than paying them out. Cost Recovery Works, Inc. has used these techniques to stunning effect for clients many times and the tax reform participation showed how they work to potentially effect tens of millions in savings.

Millions of dollars in savings come from projects like this one – Just not for the poor, tax-besieged citizens of Augusta.

Thank your politicians.

GOP Cookie Jar Lid Slams on Rep. Jodi Lott

LottJodi4879

 

The November 2014 race to fill Georgia House District 122 seat, vacated by retiring Representative Ben Harbin of Evans was the ugliest, most hotly contested election in the modern history of Columbia County. It saw 2 months of nonstop attacks by radio station talk show host Austin Rhodes on hapless candidate Joe Mullins conjoined with the collapse of the campaign of departing Columbia County District 3 commissioner Mack Taylor. Taylor’s efforts became mired in a nasty war with Mullins, complete with subterfuge, private investigators, and backdoor conniving with the radio talker.  Columbia County, sick of the carnage, chose political newcomer Jodi Lott in the December runoff.

Representative-elect Lott was probably giddy with excitement still when she was sworn in this January. Her refreshing enthusiasm, undiminished by the grinding  reality check of public life, was apparent to everyone in the area. Her primary campaign issue, a “fairtax” (a sales tax) to replace the state income tax, seemed unstoppable in the Georgia House of Representatives, as leadership and the membership voiced support.

Like the rest of us, Jodi Lott found the meaning of “lip service,” that when grizzled politicians like House leaders move their lips, you can count on it being in service to a lie. In this case her treasured tax relief met uncompromising doom at the hands of  Governor Nathan Deal, who cited the danger that moving from an income tax to a sales tax would pose to Georgia’s burgeoning film industry, which heavily benefits from income tax credits. The House leadership beat a retreat, citing the futility of going against the governor’s wishes.

That is the “official story.” Here is a much more accurate explanation. The reason that the citizenry of Georgia will never see their income taxes cut, or replaced by a sales tax, is that other income tax credits have been a back-door, almost totally-unaccounted for, stream of public funds to connected political donors from the Republican hierarchy in the legislative and executive branches.  They give away income taxes that have to be made up by increased income taxes on us. No income tax means that the payola scheme dies.

Our City Stink/Agraynation.com  collaborative effort uncovered the scandal in 2012, during investigation into the details of the Magnolia Trace subsidized housing development uproar.  After the public fury, this writer had traveled to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) offices and spent an afternoon pouring over records of the Magnolia Trace income tax credit applications in the company of DCA attorney Phyllis Carr.  The review did not uncover any smoking guns assignable to Columbia County Officials, but found a huge one wafting smoke toward the Georgia Republican Party and its senior officeholders in government.

You see, the availability of income tax credits, especially the low income housing tax credit, had been around for years. Most of these credits expired unused. That was until Missouri based Affordable Equity Partners got measures through the Georgia legislature allowing the credits to be exchanged, marketed and sold to taxpayers who could use the tax credits.  Affordable Equity and its sister Capital Health Management, Inc. funded a bevy of GOP-beneficent PACs and made direct contributions to nearly all of the important party office holders. To date, Governor Deal has received $10,000, House Speaker David Ralston has received $9,500, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle has received more than $17,000 from this stable of companies and related PACs. The  GOP, its incumbents in the legislature and other supporting PACs have received another $240,000.

Magnolia Trace affair was also a scandal in its approval process and the political donation largesse was a deciding factor for approval in this writer’s opinion. How widespread are these failures and malpractices by DCA and how much is it costing the people of Georgia?

Representative Lott and tax reformers take note! To get tax reform for the people the path is directly through your leaders’ hefty campaign finances.

Let’s see if the candidates now running for Senate 24 and House 123 seats on passing a “fairtax” have that much tenacity.

 

Lincoln County Commission Gets a TSPLOST Blast

In June 2012, Georgia’s proposed Transportation Investment Act, called TSPLOST all over the state, was being debated before coming up on an election ballot.

The Lincoln County commissioners were drooling over the new tax money. They didn’t like this message.

The words of warning were played and replayed on Lincoln County’s cable television network which reaches nearly every household in the county.

The election was held and the people of Lincoln County turned TSPLOST down despite the support of the elected officials and the Chamber of Commerce.

Home rule died with the TSPLOST vote.

T-SPLOST Passes in CSRA Despite Columbia County Saying No

Originally posted on CityStink
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
Augusta, GA
By The Outsider
Al M. Gray, President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc. contributed multidisciplinary review techniques in support of this article.
Bucking a statewide trend, it appears that the T-SPLOST tax has passed in the 13 county Central Savannah River Area region. The latest vote totals as of 11pm on July 31 showed a margin of 56% voting in favor and  44% voting against with a more than 6,000 vote spread. This is by far the best showing for the T-SPLOST   in all 12 regions of the state, where latest totals showed that the tax was failing in 9 out of 12 regions.
Perhaps the biggest repudiation of T-SPLOST came in the  metro Atlanta region, where voters are rejecting the tax by a wide margin of 63% against and 37% in favor. This, after millions of dollars were poured into the Atlanta region by pro T-SPLOST groups  for an ad blitz pitching the tax. Its failure in the metro Atlanta region will make things very complicated, since the law states that any region which does not pass the tax will have their state transportation matching funds slashed….and with metro Atlanta comprising nearly 50% of the state’s population, that’s a lot of money. You can now expect a barrage of lawsuits challenging the efficacy of T-SPLOST now that it seems to have failed in 75% of the regions, including the states’s most populous metropolitan area.
The T-SPLOST also failed in Coastal Georgia, which after metro Atlanta accounted for the most spending by Pro T-SPLOST groups. In fact, Chatham County rejected the tax by over 57%  despite the Savannah port deepening being a signature project touted by T-SPLOST backers.
So why did it pass in the CSRA? 
By looking at the most recent vote totals, it appears that T-SPLOST mainly passed here because of Augusta-Richmond County (the most populous county in the region) where it was approved by more than 58% of the vote with a nearly 6,000 vote margin. T-SPLOST did particularly well in predominately African-American voting precincts in Richmond County. The tax found its softest support in West Augusta and South Richmond County precincts with a slight majority of those precincts rejecting T-SPLOST.
The story was completely different in Columbia County where over 58% of voters rejected the T-SPLOST.   The latest totals showed 14,358 voting against and 10,340 voting in favor. But even though Columbia County voters resoundly  rejected T-SPLOST, they will  still be taxed anyway. Lincoln County and Glascock County also rejected the T-SPLOST. The nine other rural counties passed it, presumably because of the promise from politicians that they would be getting over $87 million in additional tax revenue from populous Richmond and Columbia Counties
Since this is a regional tax regime, Columbia County is tied to the other 12 counties in the CSRA region, including Augusta-Richmond County. Under the provisions of the tax district, Columbia County will be a donor county, giving up  over $23 million of its sales tax proceeds to other counties in the region. But under the T-SPLOST regime Augusta/Richmond County will be giving away $63 million of its sales tax proceeds to other counties, which makes the overwhelming support there even more baffling. Columbia County will also now be married to what many political observers consider a corrupt and incompetent Augusta-Richmond County for control of transportation dollars.
Impact on the 12th District Congressional Race
Lee Anderson voted for T-SPLOST in the Georgia General Assembly, and now he appears to be in a run-off for the 12 Georgia Congressional GOP nomination with either Rick Allen or Wright McCleod. Anderson defended his T-SPLOST vote by saying he was only voting to give the people a say in the matter. However, critics charged that the regional vote was unfair and would subject individual counties to the tax even if their voters overwhelmingly opposed it at the polls. That scenario now seems to have been born out in Columbia County. All 3 of Anderson’s GOP challengers said they were against T-SPLOST. Now there is speculation of whether there will be a voter backlash against Anderson in his home base of Columbia County because of the T-SPLOST outcome.
Also in the hot seat is Columbia County commission chairman Ron Cross, who heavily promoted T-SPLOST. Seeing as how it failed by such a wide margin there, his critics have yet another example to show  how the commission chairman is out of touch with the average voter in Columbia County. If there is any bright spot for Columbia County over the T-SPLOST outcome is that it may lead to the overwhelming passage of a referendum imposing term limits on county commissioners and the chairman.
Now the CSRA region will have one of the highest sales taxes in the state, making it less competitive for business. However, neighboring South Carolina  retailers are likely to see a jump in business from T-SPLOST. ***
Stay Tuned… more to come
OS

 

Peas Lost to T-SPLOST (video)

Originally posted on CityStink
Monday, July 30, 2012
Augusta, GA
By Al Gray
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
In his latest anti T-SPLOST video, Al Gray, explains how our buying power will be pea’d away if T-SPLOST passes. Watch his video below.

Al Gray: Vote NO to T-SPLOST (Video)

Originally posted on CityStink
Thursday, July 19, 2012
Augusta, GA
From CityStink.net Reports
In his latest video, Al Gray, of ArrowFlinger Reports and a CityStink.net contributor, explains why it is so important for Georgia voters to defeat T-SPLOST on the July 31st General Primary ballot.
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.

 

 

Signs of Desperation for the Tax Hikers

Money No Object to Ram T-Splost Down the People’s Throats
Originally posted on CityStink
Saturday, June 23, 2012
Appling, Georgia
Hwy221
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.
From the $8 million Lobbyist Shill Group ConnectGA2012, birthed to pitch the Transportation ‘Investment’ Act, to the various tax-loving Chambers of Commerce cheerleaders, the “New Jobs!” cries from Helen to Hahira sound like some obsessive mantra. The people of Georgia have never seen a slicker effort to separate them from their money than from these T-Splost salesmen.
With a little effort, salesman-in-thief Nathan Deal almost begins to look like Euctice Haney from Green Acres and after you watch this clip, you will understand why. When old Nathan came back from Congress, pursued by an ethics investigation, yet elected in a landslide over Roy Barnes, he was encouraged to think that Georgians are all rubes like Sam Drucker and Oliver Wendell Douglas.
(click video below to play)

If we buy off on his T-Splost scam, well maybe we are past all hope.
Take a gander at what folks headed west on Washington Road (Highway 104) have been treated to starting this week. Scarcely 100 yards apart, with no visible ROAD WORK between, are two signs like this, one on each side of the road.
(click image to enlarge)

 

For what purpose are they there?
Based upon the positioning of these signs and the obvious lack of road improvements around, our sales tax dollars are only at work buying loudly colored signs pitching more sales taxes.
These people are shameless in their manipulative hijinks aren’t they?
The sure sign that we see is very clear – COLUMBIA COUNTY HAS MORE SALES TAX MONEY THAN IT NEEDS!
T-Splost? Let’s make that into the bug-on-a-windshield thing it sounds like.
Just say NO! to T-Splost!***
Related Story:

Al Gray Warns Rural County Leaders About ‘Shameful’ T-Splost

Al Gray Warns Rural County Leaders About ‘Shameful’ T-Splost

Originally posted on CityStink
Friday, June 22, 2012
Lincolnton, GA
ByAl Gray
The author, Al M. Gray is President of Cost Recovery Works, Inc., a provider of Cost Avoidance and Cost Recovery for America’s leading companies, businesses and governments desiring Superior Returns.

Below is a presentation by tax activist Al Gray before the Lincoln County Commission on June 14, 2012, warning county leaders about the “shameful” T-SPLOST and its disastrous effects on the region, especially small rural counties like Lincoln, which can be easily outvoted and forced into this abominable regional government with little to no representation.
*Click Video to play (Fast forward to the 1:20 min mark for Mr Gray’s remarks)*

*Below is the text of Al Gray’s remarks to the Lincoln County Commission concerning T-SPLOST* (Graphs and charts referenced in the video are included below)
Chairman Johnson and Gentlemen of the Commission, thank you for allowing me to speak tonight. I have come to sound a warning about the proposed new 1% Transportation sales tax that comes before voters July 31st. Frankly, in all the years following public policy I have never seen anything this shameful.
The greater shame is on this county’s legislators – Bill Jackson, Lee Anderson, and Tom McCall for springing forth such an assault upon the people of this county. The bill that gave rise to this abomination was called the Transportation Investment Act. This bill set up a regional transportation roundtable for 13 counties, including Lincoln County. While it is true all had input, the law set up an executive committee of 5 to have the final vote for the 13 counties. They set it up so that Lincoln County is forced to be in this whole new level of regional government, whether we vote to pass or fail, so that our votes are diminished.
This is taxation without representation. Worst of all they committed EXTORTION against us all, by denying state funds if we say “No!” Beyond this, this is a 14.2% tax increase that they swore to never vote for. Nor were any options even offered, like dedicating the 1% to our county.
Yes the shame is upon them and tonight I come to ask you to stop embracing this nonsense lest you bring greater shame on yourselves and the Chamber of Commerce, a group that risks its reputation by hawking this tax.
Politicians and Chamber representatives have been going around the CSRA saying this tax will raise $841 million under a base case. This is a LIE and the Promoters’ own data shows that. Here is a chart showing the base case. It is built on wild income growth numbers – 8% next year – that are a fantasy. The real numbers knock holes in these projections!
*Click graphic below to enlarge*
Will we get only $650 million? Sales tax revenues are WAYYYYYYY down as the blue charts show over the last 5 years. Can we pretend our way back to prosperity?*Click graphic below to enlarge*
Gentlemen YOU HAVE BEEN HOODWINKED!!!!!!! What these real revenue numbers show is that area wide, revenues will probably only cover $500 million to $540 million of the investment list projects! This will mean that the ones in the last years of this deal won’t be funded. Incredibly $6.6 million of the $7.7 million of Lincoln’s projects are to be built in these final years.

*Click graphic below to enlarge*

 Source: Constrained List Spreadsheet from CSRA Regional Commission
The numbers say these projects will lack funding. You have been deceived and now are being asked to foist this deception upon the people of Lincoln County.
Beyond that, this is a terrible 14.2% increase in the sales tax. Frugal folks just cannot stand such an increase in any cost, for a 14.2% increase doubles living costs in 5 years. For this? This comes on top of a 23% sewer rate increase and several double-digit school tax increases. Look around! Who can afford that?
These deceivers have managed you get some of you excited over Lincoln County getting $722,000 a year in new discretionary funds. Well, based upon the data above this looks to be far less. This money is only coming to us because this scam makes Richmond and Columbia counties give up $7 million to bribe us into this wicked partnership with them. How is that right? A 1% new tax dedicated to Lincoln County would raise more revenue. Why are you excited about the same money or less with strings attached? Why are you willing to destroy your credibility for this?
Gov. Sonny Perdue said that DOT committed ENRON ACCOUNTING when it lost control of highway funds 4 years ago. Now they are all excited about getting their hands on this money. They want us to bail them out.
Mark Twain once said there were three kinds of lies….Lies….Damned lies and statistics……..now we can add a fourth lie – Tsplost.
My warning is this. Don’t go forth using these phony numbers after tonight. You know better and the people now know better.
Just vote no on T-splost. It is the only honorable thing to do.
A.G.
Join the Anti-T-SPLOST movement on facebook here–>  Vote NO to T-SPLOST